Science and technology are key to Africa’s future development. In January 2007, the AU Heads of State and Government declared 2007 as the launching year for building constituencies and champions for science, technology and innovation in Africa. The Pan-African University (PAU) was set up by the AU Commission in response to this growing political momentum.
The PAU aims to make African higher education fully competitive at international level, while being relevant to the African situation. This should be achieved through capitalising on the experience and intellectual resources of the best African universities and research centres and using them to create regional knowledge hubs. Its main objectives include
- promoting science and technology in Africa and achieving research and higher education institutions of the highest quality;
- speeding up the exchange of results and data through African and international networks;
- increasing the mobility of researchers and students;
- offering more and better programmes at Masters, doctoral and at post doctoral levels;
- equipping scientists and researchers with the tools to address the development challenges facing the African continent; and
- retaining skilled African human resources.
Five key thematic areas corresponding to the pressing needs of Africa have been identified:
- basic sciences, technology and innovation;
- water and energy including climate change;
- earth and life sciences;
- space sciences;
- governance and humanities and social sciences.
These disciplines will be developed by five selected institutes of higher education located in the five geographical regions of the continent: North Africa (to be defined), West Africa (Nigeria), East Africa (Kenya), Central Africa (Cameroun) and Southern Africa (to be defined) . The institutes will create links with a number of relevant high quality institutions of higher rducation and research across Africa . Through building a network based on existing institutional structures, the PAU will be able to make all the institutions in the network more efficient in terms of their research outputs.
The participating institutions have to meet ambitious quality requirements. Selection criteria include expertise in the thematic priority areas, participation in existing international partnerships, joint research and collaboration, high standards regarding admission criteria for students, quality management as well as sufficient infrastructures and staff.
PAU activities will be supported by international ‘Lead Thematic Partners’ providing specialised training. The mobility of staff is improved through the AU strategy for the harmonisation of higher education in Africa, as well as the African Quality Rating Mechanism. The mutual recognition of degrees and other qualifications for higher education is ensured through the Arusha Convention, or at regional level through such instruments as the CAMES and IUCEA.
The EU welcomes initiatives such as the PAU in the framework of its partnership with the AU on migration, mobility and employment. Education plays a key role in this regard. The European Commission is fostering student mobility and twinning partnerships among higher education institutions in Europe and Africa through programmes such as Erasmus Mundus, Tempus and EDULINK.